Sanctuary Asia, opening soon at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, will create a vast, multipurpose environment where endangered animals from the Asian continent can thrive while receiving world-class animal care. Prior to the opening, we will periodically preview a species coming to the new habitat. We previously featured the langurs, cassowaries, tanuki (raccoon dogs), now it's time to profile the Komodo dragons!
The Island Life habitat at the Oklahoma City Zoo has been home to one or more Komodos since 2009. An unnamed 8-year-old female, arriving from the Los Angeles Zoo in 2010, is the OKC Zoo’s solo Komodo but a new male will join her in the Sanctuary Asia habitat. Zoo staff hope the two will become a mating pair.
Komodo dragons are among the largest lizards in the world. They come in a variety of colors, including orange, blue, green and gray. Males typically grow to about 8 to 9 feet long while females grow to about 6 feet. Komodos have long claws for burrowing, possess excellent vision and can run up to 13 miles per hour in short bursts. As carnivores, their diet in the wild consists primarily of meat, including deer, carrion, water buffalo and pigs.
Native to Indonesia’s southern islands, the species is currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It’s estimated that only about 3,000 Komodo dragons remain in the wild and populations continue to decline. The OKC Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for Komodo dragons. SSP Programs are led by expert advisors who cooperatively work together to maximize genetic diversity, appropriately manage the demographic distribution and long-term sustainability within AZA member institutions.
In addition to Komodo dragons, Sanctuary Asia will be home to Francois’ langurs, red pandas, Asian rhinos, tanuki (raccoon dogs) and will also add 3.5 acres to the Asian elephant herd’s existing 4.5-acre habitat. A major feature of the new habitat will be the Lotus Pavilion, a two-story building providing the zoo’s highest vantage point allowing guests to see into multiple animal habitats through vast windows ads well as a wraparound balcony on the second floor. The views will include the elephant, rhino and Komodo dragon habitats.
Sanctuary Asia will provide daily food service and a facility designed for after-hours special events, including weddings. A water zone will give children a splash area to experience in the summer. The landscape design will include plantings native to Oklahoma, but will resemble lush Asian themes. Funding for the 6.6-acre expansion was secured through the Zoo’s 1/8-of-a-cent sales tax accrual, approved by Oklahoma City citizens in 1990. The $22 million project was outlined as Phase II in the Zoo’s master plan in 2010.